by The University of Alberta (Edmonton – Canada) (2006)
One of the questions which frequently arises before taking a sabbatical is how to go about finding a place to spend the year. The answer, of course, depends to some extent on what you intend to do and the kind of equipment you need. It has been our experience, however, that most universities and research centres welcome visiting scholars if they are not being asked to provide financial support. Office space, library privileges, and other conveniences are usually available. We suggest that you call the department or research centre you are interested in and obtain the relevant information regarding the most appropriate person to write to from the director’s or department head’s secretary. They can often provide additional information concerning titles, postal codes, etc. Your follow-up letter should contain some reference to the work that is currently being conducted at the department or research centre to indicate your awareness of their current interests. In the same context, it is advantageous to have a fairly well formulated plan of work in mind when you send the initial letter. It avoids subsequent hassles and possible disappointments when you are formally in place at the new setting. We suggest that you ask for a title such as “Visiting Associate Professor,” “Visiting Professor,” or “Visiting Scholar,” so that you can include the appointment in your Vitae. Most universities have appropriate titles that enable you to take full advantage of their facilities and extracurricular activities. It also helps in obtaining a parking permit.
A touch of reality was supplied by one of our colleagues who spent his leave in Europe. He pointed out that visiting faculty often do not get the attention that they thought they would receive. Others have noted that hosts tend to forget about you after you get there. It certainly pays to keep some options open to you so that your year is not dependent on a particular individual’s accessibility. Our colleague also felt it was risky to expect to work closely with one individual at one university unless you really know that person and he or she will also benefit greatly from you. A program that has attracted a number of postdoctoral fellows may have several advantages in this respect if you are willing to assume a similar role.